Near fatal car accident provides determination for SMSU student
It all happened in a flash.
On Aug. 22, Southwest Minnesota State University student George Wolf was on his way to pick up a friend from a bar in Marshall when his life was changed instantly.
A vehicle driven by a suspected drunk driver was going the wrong way on College Drive.
“I was stopped in front of the Speedway at about 1 o’clock in the morning. And then the next thing I know, I’m facing toward the Avera Medical Center,” Wolf remembered.
Wolf spent more than 45 minutes trapped in his vehicle before law enforcement arrived to free him and take him to the hospital. Among the first to arrive on the scene was a familiar face who comforted him as more help arrived.
“One of our good family friends was actually on scene and was one of the first firefighters there,” said Wolf. “He was there for most of the time with me and I honestly really appreciated that.”
Upon arriving to Avera Medical Center Wolf learned that he had sustained multiple injuries in the crash.
“I broke my wrist, and I also have a little bit of nerve damage in it. Basically, the way that I broke my wrist is not the conventional way or at least that’s what the surgeons were saying when I was in the hospital,” said Wolf. “I actually stretched a nerve that they don’t know for sure if it’s going to be going back to completely normal.”
The toll of his injuries extended beyond his wrist as he would end up needing surgery to heal his leg and hip as well.
“For about a month and a half I couldn’t move my fourth finger or my right pinkie finger and I didn’t have any sensation on one side of my right hand,” Wolf added. “And then I broke my leg and I also broke my hip as well, so I have metal basically all over my body right now. It’s holding everything together.”
Still, in spite of all the trauma suffered in the accident, Wolf feels lucky to be alive reflecting on what could’ve been given the severity of the impact.
“Honestly from what I saw from the pictures, I’m surprised that I even made it out of the car,” Wolf said. “I didn’t see (the pictures) until three months after the accident, but my parents would show everybody the car and they were pretty amazed that I made it out the way that I did with relatively minor injuries with what could’ve happened.”
The road to recovery
The rehabbing process has been long and challenging process for Wolf since the accident occurred. He spent months doing physical therapy in his hometown of Robbinsdale with his family on-hand to assist him throughout the trying period.
“When I was back at home, my parents were definitely helping me out with everything,” Wolf said. “They’re probably some of the strongest people that I’ve ever met. Both my mom and my dad have gone through a lot of adversity, but I think this is one of the toughest things that they’ve ever gone through because it was their 20-year-old son.”
“They were making sure I was keeping fed, keeping relatively pain free and for the first month and a half that I was home they had to do literally everything for me,” said Wolf. “I couldn’t shower myself, I couldn’t go the bathroom on my own, so they had to be with me every step of the way.”
Wolf was recently given the go-ahead to return to campus at SMSU and get back to life as a college student. While he’s happy to be back in the town he’s grown to love, the adjustment of returning to the full-time student routine hasn’t come without its fair share of obstacles along the way.
“When you haven’t been in the swing of things that or you haven’t been in a routine that you’ve been doing for about two years and leave that for about four months, it’s kind of difficult to get back to everything,” said Wolf.
Wolf is currently majoring in Accounting with minors in Forensic Accounting and Criminal Justice that will put him on track to graduate in spring of 2023. When he’s not attending classes, Wolf works as a residential assistant in addition to serving as a staff member for the Southwest Minnesota State University Admissions Office. Hoping to avoid re-aggravating any injuries, Wolf has incrementally worked toward getting back to his normal routine.
“I’m about halfway, if not three quarters of the way back,” said Wolf. “I’m still working on making sure that I can walk long distances without being in too much pain, so I haven’t done everything I possibly can do because I’m not physically capable of doing that yet but I’m getting back into it.”
After receiving comfort and support from his family back home in Robbinsdale, Wolf has leaned on his friend Abby at SMSU, whom he works with in the admissions office.
“She’s been with me every step of the way with this. I’d say she’s probably one of the closest people I have on campus and she’s been helping me through every single step,” said Wolf.
Staff and faculty at SMSU have also been quick to help Wolf as he eases back into his routine.
“People around campus understand, or at least the people that know me understand what I’ve been through, so they’ve been helping me out every step of the way that they can,” said Wolf. “Honestly, I think that’s really helpful for me to get back to normal even though I’m one of those people that doesn’t really like help, but sometimes you just have to accept it.”
The warmth and compassion shown by those at SMSU has made it clear for Wolf that he made the right decision coming to SMSU and is on the right path towards full recovery and a diploma in the not so distant future.
“The people down here are just amazing. I could go anywhere for an accounting program but the professors here and the people here really make it great for me,” said Wolf.
The journey since that faithful night in August has been one of the most challenging endeavors Wolf has ever been on. With light now appearing at the end of the tunnel, Wolf is optimistic for what’s in store for the future with a brand new outlook on life.
“One of the positives I’ve taken away from this whole ordeal is to appreciate the people in my life. It’s kind of cliche to say that after a near death experience like I’ve had but it’s honestly true. If I didn’t have friends and family supporting me, I definitely would not be where I am right now, much less ever come back to school,” said Wolf.
“It’s really been eye-opening, and now I look at everything with the mentality that I am able to overcome anything in my way, and I’m strong enough to push through pain and adversity. It definitely hasn’t been easy in any way, but if I could make it through the mental struggles and physical pain, then there’s no reason I’m not able to make it through anything else that stands in my way.”